Michael Rutter grabbed his 14th North West 200 victory when he took a thrilling Supertwins race on Saturday by 0.6s from Dan Cooper after a race long battle with the former 125cc British Champion and Thursday night’s race winner Martin Jessopp. It was a fairytale win for the KMR Kawasaki team after last year’s event left team owner Ryan Farquhar fighting for his life.
“It was very hard work and Martin’s bike is a missile so I had to try and slow him up as much as possible on the final lap,” a delighted Rutter said afterwards. “I wanted him to lead along the straight down to University and he came by at the right time so I could get a good tow. It worked perfectly and I was able to hold them off for the rest of the lap. I wasn’t even riding the bike until last week so fair play to Ryan and it’s great to get another NW200 win.”
It was Rutter (IEG/KMR Kawasaki) who led off the line, initially pulling clear, but by the end of the first lap the leading pack were all bunched together with the veteran’s lead over Cooper (KW Electrical Kawasaki) just 0.3s whilst Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles Kawasaki) and Lee Johnston on the second KMR machine were only separated by a tenth of a second in third and fourth.
Second time around and there were changes of position everywhere with Jessopp moving from third to first on the high speed run to University only for Cooper to pass him into Church and then Rutter doing likewise into Black Hill. Rutter wasn’t done either and got by Cooper on the brakes into the Juniper Chicane.
However, Jessopp was back in front half way round lap three and began to pull clear of the battling Rutter and Cooper. Rutter wasn’t having any of that though and reeled him in along the coast road, promptly regaining the lead going into Juniper.
There was just 0.7s between the trio going into the fourth and final 8.9-miles with Jessopp briefly taking the lead on the run to University before Rutter reclaimed it on the brakes.
By Mathers Cross though, Cooper had gone from third to first but Rutter was later on the brakes into Magherabuoy to take the lead once more and with the veteran strong along the coast road, he eventually took the win by 0.697s from Cooper and Jessopp.
Further back, Michael Sweeney got the verdict for fourth after a race long dice with Paul Lennon and James Cowton whilst last year’s double race winner Ivan Lintin retired after running on at the Metropole.